Sweetheart deals alleged over S.F. park repairs

Accusations of “pork-barrel legislation” flew when San Francisco supervisors heard from the public about a proposed $185 million bond to repair and clean up city parks.

With the bitter taste of what many consider an ill-used $110 million bond passed in 2000 still in their mouths, members of the public complained at Wednesday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting that the system devised to pick which parks receive money from the 2008 bond was an “arbitrary” one, with money going to parks that had advocates in the ears of The City’s officials.

At issue is the ranking system the Recreation and Park Department devised to ensure the neediest parks receive bond money. The point system looks at the seismic condition of park structures, the park’s condition, its location in dense urban area and how many amenities it provides to users, and determines a score for each park.

“It seems arbitrary to a lot of us, this whole thing about how they came about these numbers,” said Andrea O’Leary, of Environmental Quality for Urban Parks. “One minute, somebody is in a meeting — they’re outside talking to a commissioner — they come back, they get another million dollars added on to something and something else gets removed.”

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who is one of the driving forces behind the bond, responded to the attacks by defending the system.

He called the proposal “the least political proposal that I think I have seen,” while acknowledging that the Chinese Recreation Center, which is in his district, is at the top of the list.

“Nonetheless, objectively it scored as the most important project in The City. So I certainly take exception to the notion [that] it was driven politically,” Peskin said.

Citywide, parks are in desperate need of repairs. A 2007 needs assessment of The City’s 200 parks, playgrounds and recreation centers found that $1.7 billion would be needed to fix all the facilities: $825 million for neighborhood parks and $865 million for special properties such as Golden Gate Park and Sharp Park.

The sites proposed for $110.4 million in bond money are the Chinese and Palega recreation centers; the Mission, Cayuga, Sunset, Fulton, Cabrillo and Raymond Kimbell playgrounds; Mission Dolores, Glen Canyon and Lafayette parks; and McCoppin Square. Another $30.9 million would go toward projects throughout the park system such as rebuilding trails, fixing restrooms, new trees, fixing fields and a community grant program to reach out to parks with community backing.

dsmith@examiner.com

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